Tuesday Tunes 28: The Sixties – Part 1

I’ve often mentioned here and on my Facebook page that songs take me back to my youth, my teens or my university days, so I thought it might be a good idea to devote a few posts in this series to those years. I became a teenager in 1966, and we got our first record player in the family around that time, so the Sixties seemed a good place to begin. Thinking back to those days and my early record buying, so many great songs come to mind: at present, I’m intending to do a couple of posts each for the Sixties and the Seventies, and see how it goes. But don’t hold me to that!

Like most people in those days my early record buying revolved mostly around singles, with the occasional album as birthday or Christmas gifts. My Sixties selections are very much a reflection of that: I bought all five of today’s tunes as singles. As ever, I like to start with something rousing, so here we go:

The song was originally recorded by, and was a US hit for, Robert Knight. The Love Affair’s version was released in December 1967 and became their first hit, spending two weeks at #1 in the UK charts in February 1968. The major selling point for the group was Steve Ellis, who was just 16 at the time of recording, and has a remarkably mature voice for one so young. I was subsequently given their debut album, The Everlasting Love Affair which, as well as their first three hit singles, also contained very good versions of The First Cut Is The Deepest and Handbags And Gladrags. They were known largely as a ‘pop’ band, and therefore a little ‘uncool,’ but I think Steve’s vocals deserve a better appraisal than that.

My second tune this week is another UK chart hit. The Herd only had a few hit singles, of which this was the first, before the band broke up. You may notice that a young Peter Frampton was their vocalist, in the days before he co-formed Humble Pie with Steve Marriott, and then went on to sell a few million records in his solo career. I’ve always thought this was an atmospheric track, and the video is a good fit:

Ah, those were the days! All the girls wanted to go out with Peter, and all the boys wanted to be him! He was dubbed “The Face Of ’68” by a pop magazine, but that didn’t seem to do him any harm. That was the band’s fifth single, becoming the first of their three hits. It reached #6 in the UK charts and made an impact in several European countries too, but not in the US, as far as I am aware. The follow up single, Paradise Lost, is worth checking out too, if only for using the tune The Stripper as its intro!

Up next is a song by one of the major bands of the Sixties, though they carried on making good records well after their heyday, largely due to the songwriting skills of Ray Davies. This is a piece of musical magic:

I couldn’t find a movie-style video to go with that original recording but, with a song that good, who needs pictures anyway? For those of us who have spent much time in London, that is so evocative. I’ve previously mentioned that one of my favourite concert venues is the Royal Festival Hall, which is part of the Southbank complex, just along the river from Waterloo Station. I have often spent time before a show taking in the view of the river from there, and this song always comes to mind. The song reached #2 in the UK, and was a top ten single in Australia, New Zealand, and much of Europe. It was released in the US and Canada too, but didn’t chart there: maybe it was too ‘English’ for you? If you want to try more of the band, their early singles are raucous fun and, with Celluloid Heroes, Ray produced another masterpiece later in his career.

It wouldn’t feel right to do a piece on Sixties music without including the band that defined pop and rock music for that era and, I would argue, for a good many years later. I really can’t imagine how music would have developed without them. This is one of their best:

What is there to say about The Beatles that hasn’t already been said? If you’re looking for new insights you’ve come to the wrong place, but you probably already knew that. The song was released with Penny Lane as a double A-side non-album single in 1967, though it did subsequently feature on the US album release of Magical Mystery Tour, and on several compilations since then. It reached #2 in the UK, giving it the dubious distinction of being the first Beatles single since Please Please Me not to reach #1 here, though it did achieve that in the US. Who cares? It’s still a great song and I love that video.

This week’s final selection is another long time favourite of mine. It was also released as a non-album single and has only ever featured on compilations since then, apart from in the US, where it was included on the release of the band’s first album, Mr Fantasy. Traffic were the band formed by Steve Winwood after his early days in the Spencer Davis Group, though this song is unusual in that Dave Mason – who wrote it – takes lead vocal instead of Winwood:

Proving that nepotism has been around for much longer than Trump, the spoken vocal in the middle of the song is by a six year old – Francine Heimann – who just happened to be the stepdaughter of the record company owner. It’s who you know, isn’t it! The song was released in August 1967, peaking at #2 in the UK but failing to chart in the US. It is said that the other three band members didn’t like it, feeling that it didn’t reflect the rest of their music: that probably explains why Dave Mason had to sing lead vocal!

That’s all for this week. In case you hadn’t noticed, all of these songs were from this side of the pond, but I did actually listen to – and buy – a lot of American music too, so I’ll try to redress that balance next time. Or maybe the time after…

Have a good week. Stay safe and well. Wear your mask. Go out. Don’t go out. Leave the pub by 10pm. Go to work. Don’t go to work. Follow the guidance and rules. Whatever…


Tuesday Tunes 3

As week 3 of the UK lockdown begins, here I am again with my handy little counter to keep you abreast of the situation: you may have forgotten what day it is but at least you know that it is now the third week of our BC days (Boris Coronavirus, in case you’re wondering). And you also know that today is Tuesday, unless you’re catching up with this on a later day, in which case I apologise for confusing you completely.

Having given last week’s tunes a (very) loose theme, I thought I’d do that again. If you cast your mind back three months you may recall my annual round up post – That Was The Year That Was – in which I, in (I intended) rather tongue in cheek fashion, followed the growing trend for nominating a WOTY for my blog (Word Of The Year, for the uninitiated). Having given this a modicum of thought (maybe even two modicums) I had settled upon my WOTY: Whatever. Given that we’re now into the fourth month of the year I felt it was perhaps about time that I began to take this seriously (as if….whatever….) and post something for it. So today’s theme is ‘Whatever’ songs. You’ll probably be pleased to know that I’m sparing you the whiny Oasis song which has that one word title. The point of this series is, after all, to entertain and amuse you in these difficult times, or perhaps to get you thinking a little about what matters in life. Making you puke over Liam Gallagher’s nasal crooning isn’t on the agenda.

This week’s first song is from a band whose first incarnation began around 1967. They are still going today – give or take a few deaths in the ranks – and have somehow managed to make a very long career, having sold truck loads of singles and albums, by the simple trick of reworking the same tune ad infinitum (well, until the final extant member shuffles off to meet the immortal choir, anyway). I’d be happy to take a bet that very few with even just a passing interest in rock music won’t have heard of Status Quo: even their name is a clue to the fact that their tunes stay the same, after all. I jest, of course: I can tell their songs apart. Well, most of them (And for the avoidance of doubt I’ll just add that I love the Quo). As a ‘Whatever’ tune that rouses generations of dads to dance, this one really takes some beating:

My second tune for this week is very different. As a counterpart to the Quo’s rabble rousing, I’ve gone for a quiet, reflective piece which carries a message that I think is perfect for these troubled times. Many will know Gerry Rafferty from his massive hit Baker Street, but may not know much more of his catalogue of beautifully written songs. I was one of the few to buy his first solo album Can I Have My Money Back? in 1971. This album is notable for a delicate song called Mary Skeffington, which is about the abuse his mum used to suffer from his dad. Nearly 50 years on, I still can’t listen to it without a tear in my eye. If you don’t know it, do seek it out – you won’t regret it. The song I’m sharing today – Whatever’s Written In Your Heart – is also delicate and beautiful, and is so apposite for our quieter, more reflective moments. We are probably having more of those than normal, of late. This is a live performance which I feel really brings out the simple beauty and power of the song:

Whatever’s written in your heart, that’s all that matters.

So true.

Take care, be safe and keep well. More tunes next Tuesday…


That Was The Year That Was

Around this time of year we find ourselves looking back at last year’s experiences and looking ahead to how we hope the new year will be. Do we ever really know? As I’m agnostic, with atheist tendencies, I don’t rely on that kind of life guidance, nor do I claim any supernatural powers of my own: I’m not Nostradamus, or even Old Moore (the Almanack guy). So I tend to rely on looking back at what happened to me to inform my way ahead – I’m a great believer in learning from our experiences. In my case, that means learning what NOT to do! I don’t keep a diary, so I tend to rely on my blog posting history to remind me of the past year, and that review is always accompanied by a look back at my blog’s statistics.

Last year was an odd one, in blog terms. I posted 53 times, which is similar to recent years, but not to any regular schedule: there were some gaps in there! Total views increased by over 40% from 2018, but likes and comments only saw small improvements. What am I supposed to make of that? Should I be pleased that so many more people read my posts, or concerned that the levels of ‘approval’ shown by likes and comments didn’t increase in proportion? Or should I ignore the statistics and just carry on regardless? Guess what – regardless continuation is the order of the day. I don’t blog for anything other than as a hobby, so it’s not as though I have commercial sponsors or advertisers to worry about. To be honest, I wouldn’t want that kind of pressure anyway: I suspect I could probably generate a better income from putting my non-existent predictive talents to work on the lottery and the football pools than I could derive from selling my blog (and my soul) for money.

I was actually approached a couple of months ago (via my Contact Me page) by a company wanting to use my blog as a vehicle to promote their product, but as that product was an expensive set of tablets with (in my view) over-generous claims for their general, sexual and mental health benefits, I made the decision to spare you from that, dear reader, and declined their kind offer. I trust that you are duly grateful. But if you are interested in that kind of thing, a quick internet search will furnish you with many companies who would be only too happy to separate you from your cash, with no help from me!

But I digress (as usual). I’m really looking back at what did happen last year with my blog, not at what didn’t. Using the number of likes as my criterion, I was pleased to see that four of my top five posts last year were mental health-related. Despite appearances to the contrary (e.g. all those music posts) the reason why I began doing this was to share my experience of depression in the hope that my small voice might make a tiny difference in the great scheme of things. So, whilst I have at times been indulging my blogging self with the more enjoyable aspects of life, it is heartening to see that people still take notice when I share the message that we need to be supporting those who suffer from a mental illness. Learning the lesson from that, I could make it a New Year Resolution to post more on mental health matters in the coming year. But, as I said yesterday to a fellow blogger, the only New Year’s resolution I ever make is not to make any other resolutions. That leaves me feeling that I achieve something every year! But even without a resolution you can expect more from me on mental health issues.

When I reviewed what you guys had deemed to be my top posts of 2019, it was very pleasing that my annual post for World Mental Health Day was the most liked, by a distance: so much so, in fact, that it is one of just two 2019 posts to feature in the all time top ten. If you haven’t seen it, or want another look, it can be found under the imaginative title of World Mental Health Day 2019 – I worked hard at that!

The second most liked post of last year was one for which I spent a little more time coming up with a title: 2018: They Think It’s All Over. Given that I’m sharing that with you in a post reviewing last year, I’m aware of the slight irony of that being the equivalent post to this one. But, like this one, it is a quick way for newer readers to pick up on what they may have missed before signing up for this drivel – and that one gives you a whole new set of links to follow. Sometimes, my generosity surprises even me!

The rest of my top five posts of 2019 were all mental health posts and, perhaps through no coincidence, they were all reworkings of posts I had originally written in 2016. As I said earlier, that is the primary reason I started blogging, and there is clearly an audience for posts on this theme. Those three posts were:

Time To Worry – An Update

I’m Still Me and

Reprise: My Top Ten Depression Tips

In its original version, the last of those is still my fourth most popular post in the seven years I’ve been doing this: as I said, there is an audience interested in mental health issues and I will never forget that. Even if I do stray off into other areas I will always return at some point.

You may wonder why I go back to those older posts and share them again. The answer to that is simple: I regard the words I wrote previously as being just as valid as they ever were, and the total number of people following my blog has more than doubled since 2016, so I would imagine that those posts were new to many. My apologies if I created a sense of déjà vu with you, but the message is important and, I think, worth reiterating.

Quite a few of my 2019 posts had nothing overtly to do with mental health. I’m thinking here of my December series of music posts – of which there were six – but, as music is regarded as one of the contributors to our mental well-being, there may be an indirect link. On a different theme, one of my favourite posts last year was Missing, Inaction – having just re-read it, even that had a passing nod towards mental health too, though its main theme was our dependence on the internet and the deprivation I felt from an enforced 15 day absence.

I’ll leave you with my own favourite post from last year. It was another of my musical ones but with a difference: its main aim was to show how talented musicians can be found on YouTube amongst all the dross on the site. I deliberately gave the post a slightly ambiguous title and, as you can see from the comments, a couple of people admitted to being drawn in by it. As I said to one of them, it was good to know that my MBA in Marketing (1980!) was still of some value, and who wouldn’t want to find out what Under The Covers was about? That was far from being the most ‘liked’ post, but is probably the one from which I derived most pleasure in writing.

Many thanks for indulging me in this little meander through my last year of blogging. I hope to see you again throughout this year though, unlike many other bloggers, I haven’t planned anything beyond this post. I’ve noticed a growing trend among bloggers to dedicate an annual theme, or a word (or several) for their blog. Having given this much thought, and in view of what I just said about my lack of advanced planning,  I’ve decided that my word for this (and probably any other) year should be: Whatever. It seems to fit me well: what you’ll get is whatever comes into my addled brain. I hope you’ll stick around for the ride – whatever it brings!

(PS New Year = new style: I decided to change the template theme for my blog, as I’d used the pre-festive period theme for several years and fancied a change. WordPress don’t offer one called ‘Whatever,’ as far as I can tell, but I hope you like the new look. It’s like me: simple.)